As Alberta and Canada start to return back to the “new normal” things have definitely changed since COVID-19. Economically, physically, and even how we shop for groceries or enjoy sporting events will likely be different.
What does that mean for you and your banking? Since early March, when the spread of the virus became a concern for Canadians and Albertans – and much earlier in many parts of the world – most of financial institutions, including Encompass Credit Union, have changed a bit on how things are done. Many places closed branches, or reduced hours, added physical distancing measures, safety screens and other sanitizing procedures to protect staff, or members and the public at large.
Alberta is now in Phase 1, with phase 2 not in the too distant future, but when that happens will be dependent on spikes in outbreaks of the virus, or if or when there is a second wave. Albertans have generally been luckier than many provinces and States, although we cannot forget that any lives lost to this virus are too many. At Encompass, we’ve asked you to do as much of your banking as you can using the digital and online tools that we have invested in as convenience to many well before COVID-19, and even more necessary after, to help prevent the spread of the virus. And it has been working.
Our branches have stayed open, although with reduced hours, we have seen a decrease in member traffic, but our branches continue to serve people for depositing or withdrawing funds, bill payments and other transactions. As things re-open, digital banking will remain a convenience for many, yet there will be some that will want to go back to the quality person-to-person member service in a brick-and-mortal branch. And as our digital banking improves, the convenience to use and securities they provide will also improve the member digital banking experience. Measures like contact-less payment that you have on your debit card or credit card may have seemed like a novel thing a few years ago, it’s now something that you are probably glad you have in this new normal.
As we all know, economically, the closure of non-essential (and the drop in traffic in businesses deemed essential) has hurt our local economies. As members of our own communities, if we are lucky to have retained our jobs, we need to help support those local businesses as much as we can. Many have taken extraordinary measures to keep you as customers safe during this time. Those measures are important to acknowledge, and support local businesses as much as you can. Without them, our communities not only will have less products and services, but less support for your local kids’ sports organizations, charitable endeavours or ultimately fewer people living in our communities. That becomes a negative spiral, with losses in value of housing markets, fewer students in schools, and a downward trend that none of us want to see. With if those businesses are supported, they will need more staff, those staff will be able to spend at other local businesses and purchase homes, and cars and live their lives in our smaller communities which we have all enjoyed, and want to continue to enjoy.
It will be a quiet summer with fewer planned events and activities due to COVID-19, the loss of the local Stampede or other major events in our smaller villages will affect the dollars brought in by event tourism and people who travel to our communities. But, that also means that we likely will be doing a bit less travelling ourselves, especially long-distance travelling and vacations abroad. There’s more than two ways to think about this, a temporary loss of fun for you and your family, but there’s also an opportunity to have a fun staycation and really explore what your own community and area has to offer. Local parks and recreation, as they become available can fill in for long distance vacations, at least for now. Spend some of that money you may have spent on a vacation on local products and experiences, and put the rest away in a tidy savings account or a retirement savings plan. Your future self will thank you.
We all will face challenges over the coming weeks and months as we start to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and although this has become to sound cliché, we all can get through this together. We’re living through something that most of us have never experienced (unless you’re over 100 years old and survived the Spanish Flu).
Support each other, buy local, shop local, invest local. Be local.
– Kelly Clemmer – Encompass Credit Union